Congressman Guinta strikes bipartisan tone during day-long Laconia visit

LACONIA — With a week's vacation after six weeks in Washington, First District Congressman Republican Frank Guinta of Manchester chose to spend yesterday in the city where he joined the guests on "the Advocates," the radio talk show hosted by Niel Young, met privately with city officials, held an invitation-only panel discussion and hosted a town hall-style meeting at Lakes Region Community College.

The town hall meeting drew a sparse crowd of half-a-dozen local Republican loyalists, including two of the 18 Republican State Representatives from Belknap County —George Hurt of Gilford and Frank Tilton of Laconia — along with Alan Glassman of Barnstead, the chairman of the Belknap County Republican Committee, who served as moderator.

In his introductory remarks, Guinta, who returned to Congress in 2014 after being ousted after one term in 2012, struck a more moderate note than the militant tone that marked his first term. He said he wanted to focus on bipartisan issues, noting that despite the headlines in the media 80 percent of the legislation enacted in Congress enjoys support from both sides of the aisle.

"We're here to govern," Guinta said, adding that this requires "a willingness to find common ground." As examples, he offered legislation to restore the 40-hour work week to dissuade employers from trimming hours to escape the Affordable Care Act, and to construct the Keystone pipeline, which he said would generate jobs, promote energy independence and boost exports.

Asked about the future of legislation to restrict abortion that was scuttled when it ran afoul of women in the Republican congressional caucus, Guinta said only that it has been referred to committee and may be amended and put to a vote.

Guinta spoke of the Affordable Care Act — not Obamacare — signaling his temperate tone. When Don Ewing of Meredith declared "Obamacare must be repealed," he replied that instead, congressional committees have been asked to offer amendments and alternatives to the law and that he was "looking forward to a competitive health care system."

At the same time, Guinta touted his bill to repeal the so-called "Cadillac Tax," the coming (2018) 40-percent levy on individual health insurance plans costing more than $10,200 and family health insurance plans costing more than $27,400. He said it would impact municipalities, including Manchester where he served as mayor which would be liable for $5 million or $6 million in taxes, and businesses with more than 50 employees. He feared that the effect in the private sector would be reduced benefits, lay offs and higher employee contributions. "most people are taxed enough," he remarked. "It doesn't seem fair to me."

The crisis in the Middle East, Guinta said, "has gotten worse with the inaction or limited action" of the Obama Administration. He expected Congress to amend the president's request for "authorization for use of military force," which he described as overdue, and said there must be "a real plan" that engages states in the region led and equipped by America.

Guinta insisted the time has come "to put politics aside and put people first" and declared "I never want to be in lock step with a party. I want to be in lock step with the people I represent."

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Fire claims new-tire shed in downtown Laconia

LACONIA — A two-alarm fire destroyed the roof of a Stratham Tire Company storage shed off Water Street last night.

Fire Chief Ken Erickson said that firefighters were called to the scene just after 6 p.m.

He said smoke was pouring from the roof and just a short time after their arrival, the entire roof became engulfed in flames.

He said firefighters battled strong winds and at one point he said he was concerned for a two-story apartment building that is just across Water Street.

Erickson said it's too soon to know what started the fire but said there are about 600 new tires in the building. The flames were captured on the Laconia Police Department's video system and Erickson will likely review the images today.

He said it appeared the fire damage was contained to the upper part of the shed and the roof, which had collapsed but he had not yet entered the building.

"I reluctantly called for a second-alarm but it is so cold and the wind was blowing everything across the street," he said. "I had to get some help for the teams and rotate them out of the cold."

He said the Stratham Tire showroom and main shop was opened and firefighters used it to stay warm between shifts at the hoses.

At 8:15p.m. firefighters were still streaming water on to the shed. He said it appears the tires may not have burned.

There are three buildings on the property — the actual tire store and automotive repair shop,a metal roofed storage building and the storage shed that burned. The shed is about 10 feet from the storage building and within inches from a tractor-trailer container. The railroad tracks that slice through the downtown area are also immediately adjacent.

Erickson said they were fortunate that the wind was blowing away from the metal-roofed storage shed.

The part of Water Street west of the railroad tracks was still blocked off by police at 8:30 p.m. Water from fighting the blaze was about five to six inches deep in the area and was beginning to freeze.

Crews from the Public Works Department were going to be called to begin moving the water and putting down sand and salt.

Fire companies from all over the Lakes Region assisted at the blaze and covered for Laconia. Other Lakes Regional Mutual Aid firefighters also fought a two-alarm fire in Danbury that was reported about 90 minutes into the Water Street fire.


CAPTION: Firefighters standing over to the right continue to pour water onto a tire storage shed that burned last night. The roof of the shed was destroyed and a section of Water Street was closed to all traffic for about four hours.

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Alton Selectboard has speaker removed by police

ALTON — A Mallard Road man is facing two counts of disorderly conduct after police arrested and removed him from a selectman's meeting on February 3.

Jeffrey T. Clay, 56, is charged with one count of failing to move from a public place after being ordered to do so by a police officer and one count of disrupting a public meeting.

Both of the above charges are class B misdemeanors and punishable by a fine if he is convicted.

Clay becomes the second man in as many years in Belknap County to find himself facing criminal charges for trying to speak his mind at a public meeting during a public input portion of a meeting.

A similar case against a Gilford resident who objected to a reading assignment given to his 9th grade daughter in May of 2014 was dismissed by Judge Jim Carroll of the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division on December 19.

Carroll ruled that while Baer was impolite the night he spoke out at the Gilford School Board meeting, he had done nothing criminal.

In the Alton case, Clay attended the February 3 selectman's meeting and objected to a revised public input policy that had just been adopted. He called for the resignation of many of the board members as well as the resignation of Town Administrator Russ Bailey.

During his allotted time to speak — Clay had brought and set a timer so he wouldn't exceed five minutes — he accused the board of deliberately trying to circumvent the N.H. Right-to-Know law by holding "workshop" sessions at odd hours of the day and making decisions during them that were not transparent.

Clay didn't raise his voice or use any profanities during his time to talk, however he made some remarks about what he felt was continuing illegal action on the part of individual board members regarding public transparency.

The video of the meeting shows Clay sitting and talking at the visitor's microphone. About one minute into his talk, Chair R. Loring Carr began banging his gavel in an attempt to silence Clay while Selectman David Hussey went out into the hall and returned with Police Chief Ryan Heath.
Heath went up to Clay and asked him three times to leave the room. Heath was polite but firm. On the third time he told Clay that he would be arrested if he didn't leave.

Clay stayed and kept talking so Heath removed Clay from the room by holding Clay's arm behind his back. Out of the view of the camera, Heath said he called another officer who came and took Clay to the station, booked him, and released him on personal recognizance bail.

For the past few months, meeting minutes indicate Clay was continually at odds with selectmen. His complaints remained consistent — that the board was deliberately violating the N.H. Right-to-Know law.

He would repeatedly ask for some if not all of the selectmen to resign. He objected to the board having a uniformed police officer at all of their meetings by calling it intimidation.

Minutes show he was escorted out three previous times by police, but the February 3 incident is his first arrest.

Clay was also present at the widely attended meeting of the Alton School Board earlier this week, as was a uniformed police officer who stayed toward the back of the room near the exit.

In a statement made before the meeting convened, Clay told attendees not to be intimidated by the police and encouraged them to say what they felt they had to say.

During the course of the meeting, Clay addressed the board a number of times but was not removed from room by police, nor did he exceed the five-minute rule.

It is not known if Clay has obtained legal services for his impending court case. He said Tuesday he had approached someone.

Alton Prosecutor Tony Estee said he expects Clay's first court date will be in the end of March or beginning of April.

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